Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without....greenspun.com : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread
I love reading this forum - in a world of disposable everything, it's nice to know that there are other folks who know how to make do with less, or make the most of what they have.
So tell me (us!?) what you've done lately to "use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.." I'll start...
The local senior center has a senior citizens thrift shop which occasionally has a ten cent sale - any item, ten cents. I'm making (sloooow progress) a bow-tie quilt using small floral prints - much cheaper to pick up a blouse or dress at the senior's than buy a 1/4 yard at a fabric shop. I've also picked up wool clothing to use in a future quilt and braided rug project. Stopping by also gives me a chance to drop off nice cardigan sweaters that I've been given, or found at other places - they take them out to the local nursing homes and give them to the folks out there.
Did my monthly shopping the other day, trying to stuff cereal in the cabinet - no room, so I started looking closer at what was in there. Three partial packages of store bought cookies, a lump of coconut in a baggie, three boxes of pudding, couple of partial boxes of cereal - 1/2 cup so so in each. I had just bought some bananas and there were three over ripe ones sitting on the counter. Hmm... tossed the cookies and cereal in a baggie and whomped them with the rolling pin, (took a smack or two at the coconut too) then mixed them with some melted butter and pressed them in a pie plate and a few custard cups, baked for 15 minutes. Cooked up a couple boxes of pudding, stirred in the coconut and bananas and a few drops of flavoring extract - "Why yes, thank-you dear family, I DID slave in the kitchen all day..."
-- Polly (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 21, 2000
Right now I'm going through all of my family's clothing and extra laundry stuff. My house is TOO FULL. If the clothing is at all useable, I take it down to the thrift store and donate it. All of my father's old beaten up blue jeans have gone into a denim picnic blanket which will be a special order christmas present for my sister in law. I promised the entire family a quilt eventually, so I'm always looking for scraps, and I am keeping several holed blankets for that. My extra vegetables from my garden go to one of the local food banks. If I get too many eggs from my chickens they might go there too, don't know if they can except them there yet. Extra furniture goes to the thrift store, use broken up plank wood from my husband's work for the wood stove, lots of stuff I can't list. annette
-- annette (email@example.com), April 21, 2000.
LOL!! Polly, you have made a big mistake!! Your family will ask for that dessert again, and you'll never be able to repeat it!! (I know, because I've done the same thing!)
As for recycling, I buy blouses or even dresses from the thrift shops just for the buttons (choosing nice ones, of course) -- buttons have gotten so expensive. If the material is useable I save it for other projects, and have even salvaged a couple of those expensive lace collars that way. (Don't know what I'm going to do with them, yet, though!!) Soup is a well-known A-1 recycler for whatever is left over in the refrigerator. My husband decided he wanted those store- bought alfredo and pasta sauces, the ones that come in square mason jars (he got a taste for them at someone else's house), so I've been saving them for future use, as they are sturdy. If buying stuff used counts as recycling, we do that all the time. He bought a fiberglass canoe that had been sitting out in the weather for ages, and the seats weren't in very good shape. He recaned them and refinished them, and has a perfectly good canoe for almost nothing. Of course, weighed against what he spent on this computer, he's got a long way to go to make up the deficit!!!
-- Kathleen Sanderson (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 21, 2000.
I bought 5 bundles of cull 1 x 4, 6, and 8 inch wide pine lumber from a company that sells materials for plank and pole fences - cut it into 2 foot lengths and made shingle siding of it. I have no idea the number of board feet, but I do know that each bundle weighs between 1500 and 2000 lbs. Each bundle cost $15, and counting western cedar I bought for the gable ends of the house, I have approx. $600 in the siding. Had about 2 bundles left over and have built a 12' x 10' garden shed, a well house, a stable for the Christmas program at church, 28 birdhouses for school projects, trim in the washroom, bracing for setting posts, and most recently raised beds in the garden. I still have a stack of lumber over 5 feet high and more plans for much of its use. Found all the interior doors (good old solid pine panel doors) and a big stack of knotty pine wainscoating in an old house being remodeled a few miles from home. Put the best of the wainsoatiing in my kitchen and ripped the tongues and grooves off the rest and used them on the ceiling of my front porch (8' x 30'). Also have several old wooden windows I plan to use when I get around to building a shop/greenhouse. It pays to be a scrounger!
-- nmays (email@example.com), April 21, 2000.
I have said for many years that if I had known about garage sales when I was younger I'd be a wealthy woman today. Oh, the money I have wasted! No more tho'.
I turn zipper bags inside out and wash them in the washer with the clothing, then hang on a clothespin to dry. Most of the beautiful light fixtures in our new house are antique chandeliers from garage sales,purchased for 2-3 dollars, then rewired. Old jeans are in a box waiting to be a quilt, old blankets are quilt batting, dog blankets or go to the Humane Society. Frayed towels get a new edge with the serger, or made into wash cloths, or polishing cloths. Cereal box type cardboard is cut to make templates, packing, a million things. Potato chip bags (few and far between around here) get turned inside out, washed and are pretty foil gift wrap. That's all I can think of right now. Most of the things we do are probably so old hat that we don't even realize that we are being frugal.
-- Peg (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 21, 2000.
When it comes to my kids' clothes, the "wear it out" portion of the saying comes immediately to mind. I buy second-hand (Salvation Army and Goodwill stores are my favorites) for all of us - but by the time my boys are done with their clothes, there usually isn't enough for the ragbag! I also get outgrown clothes from friends (those are often in such wonderful condition, they become the Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes!). I am not shy about buying/getting second-hand shoes for the kids - it saves me the aggravation/stress of hollering at them for going into the swamp in their sneakers - just throw 'em in the wash (sneakers, not the kids - although......). Can't keep them out of their favorite playground (boys will be boys), so I keep a surplus of footwear available - when it's free/secondhand, spending is kept at a minimum.
There are so many ways we "recycle" around here - the best way, $$$-wise, is when friends of ours cut down trees - we help them clean up their yards, and we get free heat for the winter. At the risk of sounding like I am boasting (all right, I am, just a little), we haven't bought heating oil in over three years. Goodness, gotta love wood heat! I am a regular dumpster-diver, garbage-picker (big-pickup day in local towns yields a myriad of goodies), and believe you me, when we throw something in the garbage, there won't be much left of it. Judi
-- Judi (email@example.com), April 21, 2000.
Talk about wear it out . . . I'm wearing for the barn my brother-in- laws original snowmobile suit. It's a little big but at least 30 years old. I've probably resown every seam and put two new zippers in it and it's still going strong. I think it's going to outlive me!
We wash plastic bags too, finally pitched one yesterday that had '96 in marker on it. Old towels that are thread bear go to the barn to dry off those new babies, tires become feeders and it goes on and on. Now if I could just get my sisters and daughters to be more frugal the world would be a better place!
-- Betsy (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 21, 2000.
I LOVE bottomfeeding. We buy very little around here new if we can help it. I've got a little junk hauling business which can be a goldmine for odds and ends. Its really cool when someone pays you to haul away something you can use yourself or even sell for a little extra $$$. I've probably saved or made tens of thousands of $$over the years doing things this way.
-- john leake (email@example.com), April 21, 2000.
Anytime we are invited to dinner at some of the family, and they have ham, turkey, roast, etc., they all know by now that I will gladly take the bones home, to make broth, etc. My one sister in law scornfully hands me gallon sized ziplock bags that have just had rolls or something like that it, and she is ready to toss them out. I cheerfully take them home and rewash and reuse until they are not good any longer. This enabled us to pay cash for our house, while they are stuck with a big mortgage! Learned to recycle and reuse a lot while living in Korea, where they recycle everything, and we were unable to get some of the common things we thought we "needed". Now if someone just had some wonderful ideas to do with those pesky free cd's that come in the mail all the time.... Jan
-- Jan B (Janice12@aol.com), April 21, 2000.
Uh...those cds? You can tie them in fruit trees with tanglefoot on them to catch bugs, or use them as scarecrows in the garden (tie them to a wire or stake with string - they twirl and flash in the sun.).
-- Polly (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 21, 2000.
Good ideas for the CD's -- I just give them to my daughter to play with! Also, as far as wearing things out, in 1987 I bought a pair of Sorel boots with felt liners in a thrift shop in Fairbanks. I've put new liners in them twice, my husband has re-sewn the rubber bottom to the leather tops, and they've had a new set of laces, the tread on the bottom is about worn out, but I still use them! On recycling, every Christmas and on her birthday, relatives give my daughter more stuffed toys. She seldom plays with any of them, so I gave two large black garbage bags full to a clinic that works with families, and a bunch more to a mission for the homeless in Mass. Whenever someone we know is in the hospital, my daughter (on her own initiative) gives them one of her stuffed toys -- even her Grandma enjoyed one! I still try to discourage people from giving them as gifts, though, because most of them are made in developing countries by little girls in horrible factories that would have been outlawed here years ago. But that's a different story.
-- Kathleen Sanderson (email@example.com), April 21, 2000.
My husband built his 30' x 50' work shop out of about 70% scrounged materials. Someone gave him an old metal barn he used for the siding and he found an old building that was being thrown away where he works which they let him have. All he had to buy was the wood for the posts and paint. I must say, it looks very nice. Of course he did all the work too. We never pay anyone to do anything we can do ourselves. Labor is a big expense.
-- barbara (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 21, 2000.
I love the term "bottomfeeding"!!!! That is a new one to me and I plan on working it into many conversations with all of those feeding above me! LOL! Jennifer (KY)
-- Jennifer (email@example.com), April 21, 2000.
Kathleen, my Sorels are WAAAYYY older than yours. When the rubber bottoms got pretty bad (helped along by a wood splitting accident) they eventually started leaking. So I went to the farm store and found some shoe-height rubbers for boots. Cranked them on, oh, maybe 4 years ago. Working just fine. Of course a dog chewing the top up on one has finally got me considering a new pair, but as long as I can catch them whenever my husband throws them in the garbage, I figure they've still got a good five years left. Now if I could just find the replacement liners I bought a good fifteen years ago, I'd be happy. Gerbil
-- Gerbil (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 21, 2000.
Hey Gerbil...Do you still have the old liners? Use them as patterns-- they are just three pieces--and cut the replacements out of old felted wool blankets (thrift shop or yard sale finds, of course!). Very warm, and you'll have plenty more material to make several, so you will always have a dry pair. Felted wool is very warm, and can be used for hats and mittens, too. I use felted wool as moccasin liners, and think that I have an idea for making a combination tea cosy and cushion-y bag to protect the teapot that we take camping, since morning camp fires aren't the same without Earl Grey tea! If you don't have any on hand, just find an old wool blanket you aren't using (ones with holes in them are canidates in our house for this process), and wash it in HOT water in the washer, with a cold rinse (fabric softener helps), and throw it in the dryer....all the things you are NOT supposed to do to a wool blanket. Presto, thick, warm felt for all kinds of projects!
-- Leann Banta (email@example.com), April 21, 2000.
When I met my husband,he only generated one frozen juice can of garbage a week! He even had a special wooden rammer to compact it down in the can as far as he could! We still package our trash in those juice cans,more than one a week now. Wish I knew of some things to do with the lids. Here is a partial list of uses we have found for stuff: yogurt containers,make great tupperware,or can stack a lot of them together,drill through the bottoms several times for plant starting pots. Good for tomatoes. For the little half pint size,individual soap molds.Aluminum foil-if we get some of this from somewhere else, it can be smoothed out and washed several times before recycling it. Gallon vinegar jugs-get cut into feed scoops, or cut off the top and add a wire handle for a handy small pail. Flannel shirts that are too worn out for quilts and old T shirts,sweat pants/shirts get cut into baby wipes,that are washed and reused.Old towels and dishtowels get cut into dishcloths and cleaning rags. We get a lot of hand me down clothes from people who seem to think of us as poor. If there are nice childrens clothes that I don't like or want for my children,I take them to the consignment store and get 50% trade in value for other childrens clothes or baby furniture. If there are shirts that I like the cloth but not the style,or it has a rip but the rest is good, I cut them down into dresses for my little girl. If the fabric is a little loud for that, I cut it up into utility quilts.I cut the biggest possible pieces for utility quilts because they are going to get a lot of use and the seams are the weakest part. The kids have some utility quilts with a jungle print with tigers on it and love it! Blue jeans get patched and patched,and if there is anything left when they are beyond patching,get cut into a very heavy warm utility type quilt. Old,old cloth that is full of holes or moldy or beyond any use gets used as mulch. So do newspapers,books we don't think are worthy of going to the thrift store,old cardboard boxes,and any papers that need to be gotten rid of. The envelops we get in the mail with junk mail,get saved for seed packets.Glass and broken dishes get smashed and used in concrete mix.Old soy sauce bottles are good for refilling with bulk soy sauce or putting herbed vinegar or salad dressing in.We keep the old windex bottle too, and refill it with vinegar water which works just as good.I have taken apart cassette tapes that weren't working,fixed them,and taped them back together if they didn't have screws.If the tape is good but you don't like it,you can put a small piece of scotch tape over the little holes in the top and record over it with something you do like.Haven't figured out yet how to fix them when the kids pull a lot of the tape out and tear it in half. Plastic net,the kind you get onions in,can be cut into one continuos strip about an inch or two wide and crocheted into a handy dish scrubber.
-- Rebekah (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 21, 2000.
Our house started with the windows, we scrounged them from a window store that went and took out old windows and put in new thermal windows, we had to beat off the dumpster divers who were breaking out the glass to sell the aluminum! I keep tupperware in the freezer, in them I scrape all of the left over veggies, potatoes, meat, gravy, etc. until they are full. When full I start a new one. During the winter I add these to stew, in the crock pot or on the wood stove. I put all of my soap slivers in this pump bottle with beads and water in it, shake it really good and I use this for liquid hand soap, in the kitchen. Vicki
-- Vicki McGaugh (email@example.com), April 22, 2000.
I used juice can lids this year to make Christmas ornaments with my preschool class. We put their picture on them, glued some glitter on them, painted them with some spray paint. They were really cute! I have a question....when you use old blankets for quilt linings, can use use any kind? I have one of those fuzzy hotel type blankets and I was wondering if anyone had any advice on that? I have it out in the garage sale stuff, but I would be willing to save it if I thought I could use it again. My main goal lately has been to declutter but I won't give up any of my fabric scraps!
-- Jennifer (KY) (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 22, 2000.
An old blanket to be used as a quilt lining should be washable. If you use a wool blanket, it may shrink when washed, and make the whole quilt wrinkle up. (Like a Shar-pei -- more skin than dog!) Also, re: the Sorels -- I don't know how old mine are, because I bought them at a thrift shop, but they were already well used! They could be much older than the thirteen years I've had them!
-- Kathleen Sanderson (email@example.com), April 22, 2000.
Juice can lids -- Amy Dacyczyn suggested something that I thought was WONDERFUL -- both my boys are fascinated by medeival soldiers (my younger son loves playing "paladin"!) -- Amy suggested a great halloween costume by punching holes in these and connecting them together to make "mail" shirts for little soldiers -- dressup time at our house has taken on a whole new meaning for two thrilled little boys!!
Also -- I save all the scraps (i.e., that last spoonful of peas or meat that no one wants, and would otherwise be tossed as too little to save) in a container in my freezer. Sauces, EVERYTHING, goes in here. About twice a month we have "freezer curry". I throw everything in my crockpot with a can of tomatoes, a few tablespoons of curry paste and voila! Dinner for a night, and about three or four to-work lunch for my hubby.
-- Tracy (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 22, 2000.
Polly, Polly, Polly! STOREBOUGHT cookies? Just joshin'! But I couldn't resist the jibe! I'll be back with more on this, but a little too busy right now. And we need to trade some cookin' hints! Not that I am the cook ~ Maggie is! But I fumble through with a few things, and either they are actually pretty good, or she is just leading me on so I'll cook! You ladies CAN get devious, you know! GL!
-- Brad (email@example.com), April 22, 2000.
Well, gosh, Brad. I never have any leftover HOMEMADE cookies to get inventive with! These were some vanilla wafers; bought for a kid with the flu, some coconut macaroons; which I love, but obviously no one else does, 1/2 a box of animal crackers (the baby is teething), and half a bag of pecan shortbread cookies whose origins are a mystery! Some of my most family pleasing recipes have evolved from either getting half way through a recipe and then realizing that I didn't have what I needed to finish it, or because I didn't want to spend the money on a costly ingredient when surely something else would do!
-- Polly (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 22, 2000.
The talk about sorrels reminded me of something. Around here there are alot of paper mills. They replace the dryer belts now and then. These things are 80' x 12'. We call them mill felts but the material can range from pure, very dense felt to a lighter type of synthetic material. I've made vests and boot liners and brush chaps from the felts. It wonderful stuff and tougher'n nails. The synthetic stuff will not rot and works great as path covers for the garden and foldable walls for the woodshed (it breathes)
-- john leake (email@example.com), April 22, 2000.
There is also carpet felt, which you can get for free as scraps. We have gotten some pretty big pieces of it. It's not pretty, but it is thick, soft, and sturdy.
-- Rebekah (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 23, 2000.
Watch out for that papermaking felt. Many years ago my mother made a tipi out of one for a week long camp out at a girl's camp. When it rained it STANK!! It even smelled when it didn't get wet. The regular stink you can get used to, but the wet was sooooo bad! It was however, a very good way to recycle something we didn't need into something we needed despritly. Thanks to my mother's former husband, we couldn't afford canvas for the tipi, and my mother was teaching about native americans for the week. As far as tipis go this is a great way to camp! I've read about people using all sorts of shelters for their homesteads while they put their houses in, but I'd like to know why more aren't useing tipis. They can be insulated, useing moss and with carpets over the sawdust on the floor. They also can be much cheeper and easier to put up than other shelters I've heard about. It is also very easy to put up more than one. How many kids would love to have their own while waiting for the house? just a few thoughts, annette
-- annette (email@example.com), April 24, 2000.
This one pops up every now and then, but for a long time I ignored it thinking it wouldn't work. But it does. If you need to stash plastic grocery type bags somewhere, stuff them in an empty tissue box. I used the square sort and it works beautifully. Better than opening a cupboard door and having them all fall out. Gerbil
-- Gerbil (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 24, 2000.
Well, some of you pro's certainly have me beat. Looks like I'm only a tyro at bottomfeeding here but nevertheless...
Spent two years stuck doing mall security (an interim job for what turned out to have a looong interim). It's pretty standard that the mall owner builds in periodic remodeling requirements into the leases for all of the mall stores. This means that there's at least five or six stores a year in a fair sized mall that's going to be pretty much ripping everything out and replacing it. As a mall security officer there are damn few perquisites but I did know who was remodeling when and where they were throwing the stuff out. After hours I'd come up in my truck (Nissan wagon before that!) and load up with all kinds of useful stuff. Plenty of lumber in all kinds of sizes and lengths, racks and display items beyond description, electrical and lighting fixtures, cabinets and so on.
Our music and video stores got new cabinets. I couldn't think of any use for the CD displays but it turns out the storage cabinets underneath them were not an integral part so I brought twelve of the cabinets home (gave three away). It would have cost thousands to have that kind of cabinetry built and I got it for the hauling. Built several floor-to-ceiling book free standing book shelves. Very nearly all of the material for the 8ft by 12ft hen house is salvaged material (I had to buy three pieces of roofing tin, didn't have quite enough). The solid wood (and *very* heavy) bookcase headboard I gave my wife as a surprise Valentine's day gift was a display shelf for one of our exotic arts and imports stores, all of our metal shelving was salvaged, and I've got light fixtures that I may never be able to use. I could have gotten ten times that much stuff but I just don't have any place to put it out of the weather. I mostly concentrated on the lumber and shelving.
At the end of the winter and especially spring semesters in a major university town you could just cruise the student areas and pick up what they're throwing out because they don't/can't take it with them when the graduate/flunk out. Lord, I've seen working refrgierators, stereos, TV's, air conditioners, enough lumber/bricks/blocks to build at least a workshop and maybe a full-sized house.
I'd get more into this but my wife is a tyrant about my bringing stuff home.
The Prudent Food Storage FAQ, v3.5
-- A.T. Hagan (email@example.com), April 24, 2000.
I sympathize with Alan's wife, though I do appreciate the usefulness of what he's salvaging. My husband brings stuff home that there is no room to store, and he doesn't have time to do very many of the MANY projects he THINKS he's going to do (he does do some of them), with the result that our place looks really trashy. I can't just take the stuff to the dump (though it's going to come to that) because he NEEDS it for this or that project. GRRR!!! I guess the moral of the story is, if you are going to salvage, and start more projects than you have time to finish, at least have a barn or a shed to store the stuff in, and be organized with it. Doesn't do the materials any good to sit out in the weather, anyway.
-- Kathleen Sanderson (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 24, 2000.
No time to go over all the recycling I've done over the years, but I want to mention my largest project: I have cut down and hauled to a lumber mill every large softwood tree, and some hardwoods, which die on my property for the last seven years. The small trees I leave for woody the woodpecker, but anything which will make a log with at least an eight inch diameter at the small end, I turn into either studs or siding. I built a rental house a few years ago; about three forths of the framing material and all the siding was from this source. My present house, quite large, is all sided with 1x6's on part of it and 1x8's on the rest. Lap siding. I've also sided LOTS of outbuildings here and on other folks' properties over the years. Good looking stuff, too. For siding and studs I use Douglas fir, incense cedar, and sugar pine. I only use the Ponderosa pine for interior trim wood, or panelling, as it really soaks up the water if used outside--like a sponge, it is. For other framing lumber, I try to use nothing but Douglas fir, as it's so strong, and the building department doesn't "penalize" me as much as with the other woods. With Doug. fir, I have to reduce the span by twenty five percent, compared to #2 Doug. fir. But with all the others I have to reduce the span by 40 %, as it's not as strong as the Doug. fir.
If you have trees big enough to make 2x12's out of, then you can use them for rafters over vaulted ceilings, depending on your spans, where they are often needed more for the need to put lots of insulation in the ceiling than for strength.
By the way, the mill charges me only $150 per 1000 board feet, compared to around $600 per 1000 for framing material and over $1000 per 1000 for decent siding. Which is why I have them cut as much of the nice stuff into siding as possible.
-- jumpoff joe (email@example.com), April 24, 2000.
Ever want to but some of those beautiful yarns to make blankets and sweaters and can't afford them? Of cpourse you can. Buy sweaters at thrift stores and yard sales in those fancy yarns and unravel them. The woolly types are a bit tricky but it is a good thing to do on a long winter evening. A word of caution though. Look carefully at the seams of the garment. If they have been serged or cut, you don't want them. The yarn is in long pieces instead of continuous.I found out the hard way. Too...any angora types that have been felted by the washer are good for making mittens and such. The yarn wont ravel much when it is cut, if at all. Ginger
-- Ginger (firstname.lastname@example.org), September 16, 2001.
So many great ideas here! I can't wait to use some of them. I am always looking for ways to use things that most people will just throw out. I am not Martha Stewart, but I am a fanatic about being organized and knowing exactly where everything is. I don't like clutter so I found a use for pieces of PVC pipe(ya know, the plastic pipe)I cut them in lengths of 2-3 inches. Then I cut an opening down the side of the piece large enough that my broom handle will pass through it. I then attach it to the wall in my cellar way with a couple screws.Put my broom in upside down and its always off the steps but handy to reach. Now I've moved to the garage, the garden shed,the work shop and the poolhouse. The use of these little gadgets are endless. Another thing I made with a larger piece is a plastic bag holder(shopping bags). You can make it as long as you wish. However, you do need to drill 2 holes(one near the top and one near the bottom) and they must be large enough so a screw driver can go in so you can attach it to the wall.There you have it. If anyone has any other ideas on the use of PVC, I sure would like to hear of some. Sandi (email@example.com)
-- sandi grund (firstname.lastname@example.org), October 19, 2001.
my best scrounge is the local pallet factory they throww away an unbelievable amount of wood i have piles in all my bulding and have beautiful pens and lots of "projects" in mind
-- leroy hamann (email@example.com), October 22, 2001.
Today I made a quilt (for my new grandson) to go on the baby crib I bought at the thrift store yesterday. I made the quilt out of some cute material a friend gave me and an old electric blanket which no longer worked. I took out all the wiring and then used it as the backing on the quilt. It will be very warm.
-- Nancy (firstname.lastname@example.org), October 30, 2001.
Old woolen sweaters can also be cut up in a variety of useful ways. If the elbows wear out, remove the sleeves and use it as a vest instead. I've made cut-off sleeves into jackets for small animals (puppies, etc) to keep them warm when they are sick or in bad weather. When the sweater ultimately 'goes', you can usually cut some good pieces out of the front and back panels and make mittens out of them. The scraps either go as nesting material for wild birds, or into the compost pile, altho I could think of other uses for them as well.
Worn out cotton clothing or sheets that get too old and rotten even for rags (or those seams you cut out and discard as too lumpy for other recycled uses) also compost well. I don't have many of those...I'm still using the remnants of my pyjamas from 30 years ago as rags.
Saw an intriguing thing done with some really old cowboy boots (the ones that have lost all their stitching, cracked up the sides and been resoled a few times). There was a 1-1 1/2" hole cut in the side near the ankle and fitted out with some copper foil to stabilize it, and a peaked roof out of old lumber was put on the top where you'd put your foot in, and a length of old barb wire was strung up at the top as a hanger. And it was being sold as a $40 bird house. I don't know if a bird would really use it, but they seemed to be selling a few of these, which is a pretty good price for a totally shot pair of boots.
-- julie f. (email@example.com), October 30, 2001.